Album Review: Kid Cudi - Man On The Moon III: The Chosen

10 years after 'Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager,' Kid Cudi releases the third installment of the MOTM series.
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2020 has been a fucked up year, but we are ending on a high note. Kid Cudi has released a new Man On The Moon album, Man On The Moon III: The Chosen. For those that need a little historical context, here it is. In 2009, Kid Cudi released Man on the Moon: The End of Day, one of the most influential hip-hop albums of the past 20 years, tackling anxiety and depression in hip-hop in a way that nobody else was. It was as important an album as any for millions of people (myself included) across racial and economic boundaries. Dating myself as a certified old person, but I remember buying it off of iTunes and then burning it to a blank CD to take everywhere.

He followed that up the next year with Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. Over the past 10 years, he has explored rock and different styles of rap, collaborating with other artists on albums, while always hinting at returning to MOTM. Now we have the final Man On The Moon album in one of the most influential rap album trilogies of the past 20 years.

After a short intro, he sets the tone with a banger “Tequila Shots” about medicating the pain inside -- “can’t stop this war in me,” he raps. However, he does admit that he isn’t just some sad dude, there has been some growth over the past 10 years. He has been able to find happiness. That is where the war is. It is the battle between the anxiety and depression, but also the happiness he is increasingly able to live with. “Damaged” is a look at him spiraling into sex and partying, accepting that this is just who he is and always has been.

Over the past few years, he has also expanded into film, staring in the new Westworld season and will be in some upcoming films. He samples Scott Pilgrim vs The World to open “She Knows This,” which flips in the middle like “Sicko Mode.” He also samples Tom Hanks from Cast Away on “4 Da Kidz.”

The Cleveland-born rapper has always leaned more psychedelic, bridging rap, rock and indie in inventive ways. This album continues that trend, but he also does more rapping for real bars and some hip-hop bangers. This is also the first album that he does ad-libs.

“Show Out” is like a shot of adrenaline in the arm with Pop Smoke and Skepta taking the album to another level. As Kid Cudi said to Zane Lowe, this one is about bars and all of them delivered in a rapping showcase over a hard beat that fits Pop Smoke and Skepta’s flow more naturally than Kid Cudi. However, Cudder slots in right next to them effortlessly, showing just how versatile he is.

He reunites with Evan Mast of Ratatat on “Elsie’s Baby Boy,” a flashback to the struggle of his childhood when Cudi's father died when he was young and how his mother worked hard to raise him and his siblings.

Phoebe Bridgers is the perfect match for Kid Cudi on “Lovin’ Me” as they detail their struggle with self-love. It is a heaven-ascending moment. We are truly out on the moon for this track and space has never sounded so good.

There was a lot of pressure to put out the third Man On The Moon album. Anticipation waxed and waned over the years with teasers, interviews and various comments from collaborators. There seemed to be starts and stops, but in the end, Cudi seemed to find the right headspace, encouragement and inspiration to create this album. It all came together into one of the year’s best and what Kid Cudi calls his most important albums to date. There is growth musically and personally on this record from the first and second Man On The Moon albums, through the six LPs in between. The end of “Lord I Know” a child whispers “to be continued,” so there is more on the way, but we don’t know when or in what form. But either way, bring it on.

This album is why I don’t like doing best of albums on December 1. There is still so much good music that can come out before the end of the year and MOTM 3 is one of them.

Pick up your copy of the album here

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